The 2000s Housing Cycle With 2020 Hindsight: A Neo-Kindlebergerian View

Gabriel Chodorow-Reich, Harvard University and NBER, Adam M. Guren, Boston University and NBER, and Timothy J. McQuade, UC Berkeley

With “2020 hindsight,” the 2000s housing cycle is not a boom-bust but a boom-bust- rebound. Using a spatial equilibrium regression in which house prices are determined by income, amenities, urbanization, and supply, we show that long-run city-level fundamentals predict not only 1997-2019 price and rent growth but also the amplitude of the boom-bust-rebound. This evidence motivates our model of a cycle rooted in fundamentals. Households learn about fundamentals by observing “dividends” but become over-optimistic in the boom due to diagnostic expectations. A bust ensues when beliefs start to correct, exacerbated by a price-foreclosure spiral that drives prices below their long-run level. The rebound follows as prices converge to a path commensurate with higher fundamental growth. The estimated model explains the boom-bust-rebound with a single shock and accounts quantitatively for the dynamics of prices, rents, and foreclosures in cities with the largest cycles. We draw implications for asset cycles more generally.